Hotels have operated the same way for hundreds years. There is a GM, a head of housekeeping, a head of reception and the all too familiar list goes on. With such an antiquated set-up, it is clear that there are several areas within the hotel industry that are ripe for disruption. Hotels are still wasting both money and time on tasks that, in 2017, should be automated. But how can we identify these ancient pain points and what can we do to fix them?
We should all be thinking like startups
In fact, Mews Systems is a case in point. We grew organically out of the building of the Emblem Hotel in Prague and the direct experience of the ancient inefficiencies of running a hotel. Five years ago, our founder Richard Valtr was setting up the back-end of the hotel when, after speaking with Micros-Fidelio (now Oracle), he realised that what he needed did not exist. Instead of accepting an expensive PMS with limited functionality, he took the bold step to use the budget originally set aside for Micros-Fidelio to build a superior and revolutionary system from the bottom up along with Matthijs, who he had persuaded to leave his comfy senior role at Hilton.
The Emblem Hotel in Prague - where it all started
As a result, Mews was born and started up in a tiny room with two developers and some accountants who we shared with another company. Although, four years later, Richard still can’t look those same accountants in the eye after a hectic first year, we have managed to turn our small startup into a business with 3 offices across Europe and more than 50 employees. Today, the Emblem is one of the most automated hotels in the industry and Mews are helping others improve their own properties.
It’s never too late to change your mentality
For those that think they may have missed the boat to start their own business or think like a disruptive startup, take your time to mull over the following statistics: the median age of startups founders is 40 years, 70% of most founders are married, 60% have a child and 70% of people get their startup idea while working for somebody else. In short, it’s never too late and, even if starting your own business is not for you, we should all be trying to think more like startups within the hospitality industry.
But can hoteliers adopt a startup mindset? We believe that they are perfectly poised to do so. A hotel is an ideal platform to become an incubator for ideas, skills and newer sales models. The easiest way is to start trialling and working with different start-ups within their own hotel ecosystem. Like the best startup incubators, hotels can build a nurturing environment where they experiment with different solutions to automate as many back-end operations as possible and then scaling them to transform their operations.
Analyse your business and ask yourself what will happen if you make that switch today and automate processes which are holding your company back. What is there to lose? If the solutions don’t work just unplug them and go back to the old methods or trial other options.
Start with analysing your operation. Where are the manual processes in your hotel? Your current staff are a source of innovation and potential solutions so encourage risk-taking and the sharing of ideas across your team. Find customer friction points and if you are unsure what they are start reading your TripAdvisor reviews and identifying themes. There will be a startup that exists that is tackling that specific issue. Look at your sales and if you have more than 50% coming from booking.com then you have a problem - start looking to diversify your booking sources.
At Mews, we learnt early on that we couldn't build everything and that what was more important was the need to be able to interlink systems easily. We wanted to create an affordable system that made it insanely easy to interact with hotels. We wanted to build a single accessible platform that other companies could plug into and work off.
The nervous system of your property
If we consider each hotel as a living organism, for it to be able to function and grow up to become the enticing creature we want it to be requires some crucial internal systems. Above all else, it needs a nervous system to be able to communicate effortlessly and automatically across it’s moving parts.
As any biologist will tell you - the human nervous system consists of one network that controls ‘voluntary’ actions, like using your finger to scroll down on this article, and another for involuntary, or ‘automatic’, ones such as those involved in the muscles digesting your breakfast. For hotels, the more efficient that automatic system is working in the background, the freer staff can be to focus on the important stuff like the guest experience and increasing revenue, whether in bookings or in-person sales. Hotels need to think about technology as a neural spine that can be installed to automate certain actions so they can focus on the higher functions.
The PMS as a backbone
At the core of this is the hotel PMS, running and synchronising operations automatically. From uploading sheets to downloading reports to cleaning data, nothing should be manual anymore. Remarkably, in 2017 many hotels are still manually uploading things like guest reports to try and get a sense of what is going on and, when they do, it’s only ever just a fleeting snapshot of the situation.
Breakthroughs at the bleeding edge of innovation like artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, cloud/edge computing, deep learning or the blockchain become irrelevant for us in the hospitality industry unless the right conditions are created for each hotel to leverage them. None can become part of your hotel unless the neural system - the PMS - can handle all the information and communicate it efficiently and instantly to all the moving parts involved in the operation of the hotel.
Even large chains have not achieved this higher state of evolution. Why? Because it is still prohibitively expensive. What does an average integration cost? We have heard horror stories from clients who previously paid bills of EUR 7000 for what is simply technology talking to each other.
Tapping into innovation
We consider Mews to be the neural system that each hotel deserves. The technology can be the brain and backbone that instantly delivers information to where it is needed in the body and without you wasting a moment’s thought.
So, like Apple and it’s ecosystem of apps, that is the direction we have gone in. A year ago we took a step further and opened our API so that other startups and companies could come in and take data out of the system or put it in.
Most hotels have 2 or 3 integrations at most. In our opinion, if you have any less than 10 integrations then you are not doing yourself any favours. We already have 55 unique integrations plugged into the Mews platform and another 100 under development. We also practice what we preach and believe everyone should be able to sample these solutions and we encourage you to experiment with our 30-day trials for each integration.
Solutions like Oaky, which offers great marketing to upsell hotel rooms and services
during that crucial 5-30 day window before your guest arrives at your hotel. Or Quicktext, which helps marketing for on-premise customers as well as last-minute upsells and deals. While
Importantly, nobody can help make your hotel run better until your platform is ready and this can only be achieved by using a platform dedicated to continuous innovation. At Mews, innovation in processes is at the core of what we do.
Building that startup mentality is a long-term process and you must commit to it - only last year even we realised that our back office operations were mostly manual so we changed it!
But above all else - persevere with that original and ambitious idea behind your hotel.
Interested to find out more about the Mews Commander PMS, online check-in or payment automation?